Living the active dog lifestyle? Then you probably want to be prepared for any type of injury that may occur to your dog. Before you go traveling with your dog, look up Veterinarians and Animal Hospitals near the destination and document their contact information. If you are camping with your dog, this Dog Friendly Campground Finder resource has a map of all the Veterinarians or Animal Hospitals near that campground. The most common injuries for active dogs include:

Sprains and other soft tissue injuries such as bumps and bruises

Oh the joy you and your dog find in nature’s playground: hiking, climbing, and running through the woods. It is common for dogs, when engaging in these outdoor activities, to incur slight injuries such as a sprain when climbing or a cut on the paw when hiking on a natural landscape. The best way to avoid your dog getting a sprain when hiking is to make sure the dog is getting plenty of exercise prior to your trip or activity. By developing your dog’s muscles, you ensure that periods of inactivity do not allow the dog’s muscle’s to atrophy which is the most common cause of a sprain. It is also important to warm up your dog prior to a vigorous outdoor excursion. Take your dog for a brisk walk and encourage them to stretch out their muscles before a hike. To help prevent lacerations on your dog’s paws, you can prepare them for the trip just as you would prepare yourself – by getting them a good pair of dog hiking boots. There are an amazing array of boots for dogs out there including disposable boots, waterproof boots, snow boots, non-slip boots, and orthopedic boots. Another low-cost protection to prevent injury to your dog’s soft paw underside is Musher’s Secret. Musher’s Secret is born from the Canadian sledding dog experience and was created to protect these sled dog’s paws from the harsh ice, snow and salt of Canadian winters. The product is a dense wax that is applied to the dog’s paws and creates a breathable barrier between the paw and the ground. Musher’s Secret is all natural and is absorbed into the dog’s paws so there is no worry of having to clean the protective wax off or that it will get spread all over the tent.

If your dog develops a sprain or a strain, you will be able to recognize this because they will favor that injury when walking and you will see the area to start to swell. The best way to treat a dog sprain or strain until you can get proper care from a Veterinarian is to get ice onto the area immediately. Apply ice for 20 minutes, remove for 20 minutes, then apply the ice again for 20 minutes. This should help reduce swelling and more extensive damage. Until you can get your dog to a veterinarian, you will want to minimize any walking activity.

When your dog experiences a laceration wound, your top two concerns are to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. In order to stop the bleeding, you will want to apply pressure directly to the wound with a clean absorbent material such as gauze, wash cloths, or sanitary napkins. Kwik Stop Syptic Powder is a safe and effective way to stop bleeding from minor cuts and abrasions. If you can get your pet to a veterinarian for cleaning of the laceration, then after applying pressure for 5-10 minutes, wrap the injury with gauze or bandage. If you cannot get to a veterinarian to prevent infection in the wound, then apply a steady stream of water against the wound to wash it out and prevent infection. Apply an antibiotic like Neosporin to the wound and bandage the wound. Do not let your dog lick or bite at the wound as this could cause infection. In order to prevent infection in your dog’s laceration it is important to get them to the vet immediately for proper cleaning.

Insect Bites or Stings

Spiders, bees, wasps, ants, deer flies and the like all pose a certain risk for insect bites when playing outdoors. Certain spiders such as a brown recluse or black widow can cause fatal injuries. If you are heading to a national park or campground be sure to call ahead of time to understand what types of insects in the area may pose a risk to your pet. Should your dog get stung or bit, you will see redness and swelling in the area of the bite. Typically these bites or stings occur on the less furry areas of your dog such as the snout or feet. Just as humans, some dogs are allergic to certain bug bites and thus the swelling will extend to other areas and can become quite dangerous. Be sure to know where the local veterinarian is in the case that a bug bite allergy springs up for your dog.

If your dog is bitten or stung, the first thing to try and do is to identify the type of bug if possible. This will help in advance treatment in case the bite becomes severe. At the area of the bite check first for any stingers and if found, remove them by gently pulling with your fingers, or prying out with a credit card. Using tweezers to remove a stinger may inject more venom prior to removal. Next, mix some clean water with baking soda and apply this paste to the area of the bite or sting. Over the baking soda mixture, apply ice to the sting or bite area to reduce swelling and pain. To help with itching from the bite or sting, apply an anti-itch solution such as a topical cream containing hydrocortisone or calamine lotion. To prevent your dog from licking and biting at this area, apply a bandage or gauze to the area.

Head Trauma

Playing aggressively with other dogs, slipping down a steep slope, or falling debris can put your dog at risk for head trauma. Signs of head trauma include unconsciousness, dizziness, rigid or flaccid limbs, bleeding from the nose and ears, seizures, or keeping its head tilted to one side. If you suspect head trauma in your dog, the most important thing is to treat the risk of entering into shock over treating the head injury. Be sure to treat your dog with extreme care in handling. The first thing to do is to keep the dog calm and relaxed by ensuring they lay down, providing a soothing voice, and covering with a blanket. Next, control the bleeding if there is any as outlined above in the care for lacerations section. Depending on the severity of the head trauma it is important to carefully transport your dog to the nearest pet hospital or veterinarian. When transporting your dog use a makeshift stretcher or a stretcher purchased ahead of time and part of your dog friendly first aid kit. Keep the dog’s head elevated above the body while transporting to reduce pressure in the brain.

Hypothermia or Heatstroke

Hypothermia in dogs occurs in cold temperatures and is characterized by a loss of body temperature down to 90 -99 degrees F for mild hypothermia, 82 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit for moderate hypothermia and below 82 degrees Fahrenheit for severe hypothermia. Hypothermia symptoms include shivering, lack of mental alertness, low blood pressure, slow shallow breathing, stiff muscles, difficulty breathing and general weakness. If you suspect your dog is experiencing hypothermia, use the rectal thermometer in your first aid kit to get a body temperature reading.

To treat hypothermia in your dog first minimize all of their movement and cover with blankets or other materials to prevent further body heat loss. Mild hypothermia can be treated with blankets, a warm environment such as next to a campfire or in a heated vehicle and thermal insulation from sleeping bags. It is common for the body temperature to drop slightly during a hypothermia re-warming as the blood closer to the external of the animal begins to mix with the colder inner-blood. For moderate hypothermia thermal coverings need to be combined with an external heat source such as a camp fire, a heat radiator or heating pads. It will be difficult to treat severe hypothermia as this requires intensive and invasive techniques such as intravenous fluids and warm water enemas. This is why we at Camping with Dogs always strongly advocate knowing exactly where the nearest veterinarian or animal hospital to your campground is located.

Heatstroke can occur in dogs when their internal body temperature rises above their natural temperature of 100 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. To identify heatstroke in your dog look for signs of lethargy, uncommon restlessness, excessive panting, thick and uncommon drooling, dry mouth and tongue, foaming at the mouth and belabored breathing. Heatstroke in dogs can turn fatal very fast if not treated aggressively and quickly. The immediate goal is to lower the dog’s internal body temperature. This can be done by running cool water on the underside of the dog, spraying cool water or immersing with cool water. A local veterinarian should be contacted immediately to determine when you can bring the dog in for intensive treatment and what you can be doing until you can arrive at the animal hospital.

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